One of Emerson’s most famous quotations went like this, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Or, as Albert Einstein famously coined about insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”. Self-reliance is based on the fundamental belief that you can, and should, change and control your circumstances. I have and so can you.
Of course, one of the most rewarding things about learning to make something with your own hands is that you can pass that know-how to other people. As students put the finishing touches on their shelving units and sawhorses, I get to chatting with Kathleen Lokey, a flannel-clad farmer from Greenville, Tennessee, who works for a nonprofit called Rural Resources. Through a series of workshops and training programs, the organization equips low-income, food-insecure teens in her area with the skills they need to take care of their nutritional needs, including many of the old-timey ones Daisy Luther teaches: growing their own fresh fruit and produce, canning, pickling, and making jams.
The funny thing about freeze-drying is it’s kind of an exception to the rule. Removing all the water from a floret of broccoli, for example, doesn’t turn it into something new; it simply transforms it into a slightly lesser version of itself. “Once you change the physical structure of something by drying it out all the way,” Allen said, “the texture is never really the same.”
4Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response [Internet]. Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. [updated 2016 Dec; cited 2017 Jul 10]. Available from: https://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/mcm/phemce/Pages/default.aspx
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Still, Jennifer says her preps helped her family get through the initial aftermath. Because she’d stored about three days’ worth of food in each of the bedrooms in her house, they were able to get by until a friend in the States sent additional supplies. As month after month rolled on with no running water in the region, the rain-catching and filtration system she’d set up also proved life-saving — especially amid concerns about contaminated water on the island and the mainland’s notoriously slow-moving and inadequate relief efforts.
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For now, he broadcasts Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., and Finelli invites “instructors”—doctors, dentists, survivalists, a man who carries no identification, an Australian woman who talks about seceding from the government—anyone who has something relevant to preparedness. To Finelli, there’s little that isn’t relevant. He doesn’t sell merchandise or accept donations, as fellow GCN hosts such as Jones do.
The news and many authors would have us reverse that equation. We are convinced that it is terribly important we understand all of what’s going on in the world every single day. More often than not, headlines are distractions–and not enjoyable ones. They convince us the world is burning and that we ought to fear our neighbors. They convince us that the economy is in the dumps and there are no jobs, so why even try?
“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Three hours after I arrived, Andrew: senses it’s time to wrap up, but not before breaking into one last story about the Bigfoot footprints he keeps in the back of his car. The prints were collected in Arkansas in 1956, he says, and they belong to an adult male, a juvenile female and an adult female. He says he himself came from the “drug scene hillbillies” and that his ancestors had six digits.
I connected with Jennifer through Daisy Luther, the Virginia-based writer and survival preparedness expert behind the blog The Organic Prepper, which boasts more than 30,000 followers on Facebook and roughly 32,000 monthly visits on Pinterest. Jennifer says she learned a lot about prepping from the site and is a member of its affiliated private Facebook group, which Luther says is nearly 77 percent women. (Luther and other bloggers I spoke with for this story say that while they approach survivalism from a female perspective, they’ve encountered no small number of men who are interested in these practices as well.)
9Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Hospital Preparedness Program - Public Health Emergency Preparedness - Funding Opportunity. CDC-RFA-TP17-1701. 2017 Feb [cited 2017 Jul 10]. Available from: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=290860
She started searching for ways to make the family’s grocery budget stretch further — including using their sizeable plot of land to grow the majority of the produce they consumed. “I started using the coupons and the store discounts, and it made a huge effect in our budget,” she says. “And with the money I saved, I invested in a rain catcher — a water system — and that helped us put the water bill down.” Today, she sells eggs and home-baked goods for extra cash and teaches private classes on how to build what she calls “survival items,” including the aforementioned rain-catching system and solar ovens.
“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now.”
After three days eating very little vegetable matter, I was thrilled to dig into Thrive Life’s Tuscan Quinoa Bowl, which included a ratatouille-like sauté combining asparagus, zucchini, and diced tomatoes. The cooking process felt kind of like a science experiment— you fry dehydrated garlic bits in oil, then pour in the dehydrated vegetables and seasoning along with a cup of water—but the result actually tasted like something I might cook at home, minus the strangely firm consistency of the vegetables. The following night, I prepared a Chicken Cranberry Pot Pie, rolling out the dough for the pastry, cooking the filling in a slow cooker, and carefully sealing the pie with the prongs of a fork.
People who are not part of survivalist groups or apolitically oriented religious groups also make preparations for emergencies. This can include (depending on the location) preparing for earthquakes, floods, power outages, blizzards, avalanches, wildfires, terrorist attacks, nuclear power plant accidents, hazardous material spills, tornadoes, and hurricanes. These preparations can be as simple as following Red Cross and U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommendations by keeping a first aid kit, shovel, and extra clothes in the car, or by maintaining a small kit of emergency supplies, containing emergency food, water, a space blanket, and other essentials.
Anarcho-primitivists share many characteristics with survivalists, most notably predictions of a pending ecological disaster. Writers such as Derrick Jensen argue that industrial civilization is not sustainable, and will therefore inevitably bring about its own collapse. Non-anarchist writers such as Daniel Quinn, Joseph Tainter, and Richard Manning also hold this view. Some members of the Men Going Their Own Way subculture also promote off-grid living and believe that modern society is no longer liveable.
Researchers say that interest in survivalism can often be a barometer of social anxiety; and in many cases, says sociologist Richard Mitchell, it can be a response to modern stress. If that's true, it's no surprise we're seeing an uptick in it now: from climate change to the economy, swine flu to terrorism, the current state of the world is enough to make even the biggest cynic just a little bit worried. As U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano reminded us in a recent speech at the American Red Cross, 90 percent of Americans live in an area where there is moderate or high risk of natural disaster. "I think what we're experiencing is a kind of generational panic attack," says Neil Strauss, the former New York Times writer whose latest book, Emergency, is about how to survive in a disaster. "We were born in a good time. We experienced booming technology and rising stock prices. And then all of a sudden, 9/11 happened, Katrina happened, the economy plunged. And it's like the rug being pulled out from under our feet."
In calling out to all the misfits and the rebels and the troublemakers, the “round pegs in square holes” who “see things differently” and have trouble with the rules, the ad evokes the ideal first created by Emerson of a rough-hewed outsider who changes the world through a combination of courage, tenacity, resourcefulness and that God-given wild card, genius. While Dreyfuss narrates, archival footage of the “crazy ones” flickers on the screen in black and white: Albert Einstein leads the way, followed by Bob Dylan, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a jubilant Richard Branson shaking a Champagne bottle in a flight suit.
10Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Hospital Preparedness Program - Public Health Emergency Preparedness – Supplemental Guidelines. CDC-RFA-TP17-1701. 2017 Feb [cited 2017 Jul 10]. Available from: http://www.kalhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2017-HPP-PHEP-FOA-Supplemental-Documents-1.pdf
This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good when occasion comes. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.
Followers of James Wesley Rawles often prepare for multiple scenarios with fortified and well-equipped rural survival retreats. This group anticipates a near-term crisis and seek to be well-armed as well as ready to dispense charity in the event of a disaster. Most take a "deep larder" approach and store food to last years, and a central tenet is geographic seclusion in the northern US intermountain region. They emphasize practical self-sufficiency and homesteading skills.
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I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
6Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The National Public Health and Medical Situational Awareness Strategy Implementation Plan (2015-2018). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; 2015 Sep. Available from: https://www.phe.gov/about/OPP/Documents/phm-sa-ip-sept2015.pdf